Vladimir Guerrero received a brief but rousing standing ovation before his first at-bat as a Texas Ranger in Angel Stadium on Tuesday night, which came as no surprise to the club for which he starred for the last six years.
“Vlad left some big footprints here on the field and with the fans,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. “Any ovation he gets will be well-deserved.”
Guerrero, who stepped out of the box to doff his cap before hitting a single to center field in the first inning, helped the Angels win five American League West titles in six years in Anaheim. He won AL most valuable player honors in 2004, when he hit .337 with 39 home runs and 126 runs batted in.
Though injuries limited the 35-year-old slugger to 100 games last season, when he hit .295 with 15 homers and 50 RBIs, Guerrero had a huge postseason hit, a ninth-inning, two-out, two-run single off Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon that gave the Angels a 7-6 division series-clinching win over the Red Sox in Fenway Park.
The Angels wanted Guerrero, a free agent, back, but only for one year. When Guerrero, according to Scioscia, asked for a deal “that was a lot longer in terms and guaranteed” money, the Angels signed Hideki Matsui to a one-year, $6-million deal to be their DH.
Guerrero eventually signed a one-year, $6.5-million deal with Texas that includes a $9-million mutual option for 2011, and he clearly has something left. He entered Tuesday with a .327 average, 15 homers and 60 RBIs.
“I’m not going to critique anyone,” Guerrero, speaking through an interpreter, said when asked about his decision to leave. “I know it’s a business. There are no hard feelings.”
Asked if he was at all motivated to show that the Angels made a mistake by not re-signing him, Guerrero said, “No. All I have to do is my job, and see what happens.”
Guerrero had to ask several stadium employees for directions to the visiting clubhouse, but once he stepped onto the field before batting practice, he felt very much at home, exchanging hugs with numerous Angels players and coaches.
“I’m very happy to be back,” Guerrero said. “It’s a good feeling to come here with a team that is playing such good baseball.”
The Rangers entered Tuesday with a 46-29 record and a 4 1/2-game lead over the Angels, and even Scioscia had to admit that part of him was glad to see Guerrero contributing.
“If you can’t be happy for Vlad, something is wrong,” Scioscia said. “He’s probably the most unassuming superstar around. He has great respect for people. I’m just not glad he’s doing it for a team that is in our division.”
Infielder Maicer Izturis, on the disabled list since June 16 because of a slight tear in his left forearm, began strengthening exercises Tuesday but is “several weeks” away from returning.… Reliever Jason Bulger (DL, shoulder strain) experienced discomfort after throwing in the bullpen over the weekend and has gone back to playing catch.… First baseman Kendry Morales, who had season-ending surgery to repair a fracture above his left ankle June 10, will remain on crutches for three more weeks before beginning range-of-motion and flexibility exercises.… Triple-A catcher Hank Conger has been added to the U.S. roster for the July 11 Futures Game in Angel Stadium.
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